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A  Paper  read  before  the  Heretics'  Society 
on  December  6th.  1914 




Cambridge  : 


London  : 





A  Paper  read  before  the  Heretics*  Society 
on  December  6th,  1914 




•  ,♦    •  «> 

Cambridgk  : 


London  : 




'  I  'HE  system  of  double  monasteries,  or  mon- 
*  asteries  for  both  men  and  women,  is  as  old  as 
that  of  Christian  monasticism  itself,  though  the 
phrase  "  monasteria  duplicia  "  ^  dates  from  about 
the  C6.  The  term  was  also  sometimes  applied  to 
twin  monasteries  for  men ;  Bede  uses  it  in  this 
sense  with  reference  to  Wearmouth  and  Yarrow, 
while  he  generally  speaks  of  a  double  monastery  as 
'*  monasterium  virginum." 

The  use  of  the  word  **  double  "  is  important. 
The  monastery  was  not  mixed  ;  men  and  women 
did  not  live  or  work  together,  and  in  many  cases 
did  not  use  the  same  Church  ;  and  though  the 
chief  feature  of  the  system  was  association,  there 
was  in  reality  very  little,  when  compared  with  the 
amount  of  separation.  In  time,  the  details  of 
organisation  varied,  such,  for  example,  as  whether 
an  abbot  or  an  abbess  ruled  the  whole  monastery, 
though  it  was  generally  the  latter.  Details  of  the 
rule  of  the  community  naturally  altered  at  different 
times  and  in  different  places,  but  the  essential 
character  remained  the  same. 

^  "  Monasteria   duplicia   ut   appellantur."      Corp.    Jur.    Civ. 
(Krueger)  Codex  L  iii,  43. 

4       ..  :EAIlI^Y*I)pUBLE'  MONASTERIES 

As  to  the  object  of  such  an  arrangement,  opinions 
differ.  Some  have  regarded  it  as  a  sort  of  moral 
experiment ;  others  have  seen  in  it  only  the  natural 
outcome  of  the  necessity  for  having  priests  close  at 
hand  to  celebrate  Mass,  hear  confessions  and 
minister  in  general  to  the  spiritual  needs  of  the 
nuns.  There  is,  too,  the  practical  side  of  the  plan — 
namely,  that  each  side  of  the  community  was 
economically  dependant  on  the  other,  as  will  be 
seen  later.  However  this  may  be,  the  practice  of 
placing  the  two  together  under  one  head  seems  to 
be  as  ancient  as  monasticism  itself. 

The  double  monastery  in  its  simplest  form  was 
that  organisation  said  to  have  been  founded  in  the 
C4  by  S.  Pachomius,  ^  an  Egyptian  monk.  He 
settled  with  a  number  of  men,  who  had  consecrated 
themselves  to  the  spiritual  life,  at  Tabenna,  by  the 
side  of  the  Nile.  About  the  same  time,  his  sister 
^lary  went  to  the  opposite  bank  of  the  Nile,  and 
began  to  gather  round  her  women  disciples. 

This  settlement  soon  became  a  proper  nunnery 
under  the  control  of  the  superior  of  the  monks, 
who  delegated  elderly  men  to  care  for  its  discipline 
With  the  exception  of  regulations  concerning  dress, 
both  monks  and  nuns  observed  the  same  rule 
which  S.  Pachomius  wrote  for  them^     It  was  very 

1  Vita  Pachom.   Migne  Pat.   Lat.   torn  73,   cap.  28.,  col.   248. 
Paris,  1849. 

*  Regula  S.  Pachomii.     Gallandius  Bib,  Vet.  Pat.,   torn.   4.  p. 
718.     Venice,  1765. 


simple.  There  were  to  be  twelve  prayers  said 
during  the  day,  twelve  at  twilight,  twelve  at  night, 
and  a  psalm  at  each  meal.  Mass  was  celebrated  on 
Saturday  and  Sunday  Meals  were  to  be  eaten 
all  together  and  the  amount  of  food  was  unlimited. 
A  monk  could  eat  or  fast  as  he  pleased,  but  the 
more  he  ate,  the  more  work  must  he  do.  They 
were  to  sleep  three  in  a  cell.  No  formal  vows  were 
to  be  taken,  but  the  period  of  probation  before 
entry  into  the  community,  was  to  be  three  years. 
The  men  provided  the  food,  and  did  the  rough 
work  for  the  women,  building  their  dwellings,  etc., 
while  the  women  made  clothes  for  the  men.  When 
a  nun  died  her  companions  brought  her  body  to  the 
river  bank  and  then  retired  ;  presently  some  monks 
fetched  away  the  body,  rowed  back  across  the  Nile, 
and  buried  it  in  their  cemetery.^ 

That  the  communities  of  S.  Basil  and  his  sister 
Macrina  (also  in  the  C4)  were  of  this  type,  may  be 
seen  from  the  rule  of  S.  Basil.  The  communities, 
like  those  of  Pachomius,  were  on  opposite  banks  of 
a  river — in  this  case,  the  Iris  ;  and  Macrina's 
nunnery  is  supposed  to  have  been  in  the  village  of 
Annesi,  near  Neo-Caesstrea,  and  founded  357  a.d. 
In  her  nunnery,  lived  her  mother  and  her  younger 
brother  Peter,  who  afterwards  became  a  priest. 
The  life  of  this  saintly  family  and  the  relation 
between  the  two  communities  may  be  learned  from 

^  Vita  Pachom.  Migne's  Pat.  Lat.,  torn  73,  cap.    28,  col.   248. 
Paris,  1849. 


the  charmingly  written  Life  of  S.  Macrina  by  her 
brother  Gregory  of  Nyssa.^ 

The  Rule  of  S.  Basil  is  written  in  the  form  of 
question  and  answer,  and  much  of  it  refers  to  the 
relations  between  monks  and  nuns,  while  all  impress 
upon  the  religious  the  duty  of  giving  no  occasion 
to  the  enemy  to  blaspheme.  '*  May  the  head  of 
the  monastery  speak  often  with  the  abbess  ?  May 
he  speak  with  any  of  the  sisters  other  than  the 
abbess,  on  matters  of  faith  ?  May  the  abbess  be 
angry  if  a  priest  orders  the  sisters  to  do  anything 
without  her  knowledge  ?  If  a  sister  refuses  to  sing 
the  psalms,  is  she  to  be  compelled  to  do  so  ?  "  All 
the  answers  urge  both  parts  of  the  community  to 
avoid  giving  ground  for  scandal.  The  nuns,  in 
this  case,  seem  to  have  had  a  separate  church,  for 
Gregory  speaks  of  the  "  Chorus  of  Virgins  "  who 
awaited  him  when  he  came  to  visit  his  sister 
Macrina  on  her  death  bed.  There  were,  too, 
schools  for  boys  and  girls  attached  to  S.  Basil's 
house,  for  he  makes  regulations  concerning  their 

There  is  practically  no  evidence  for  double 
monasteries  in  the  C5,  but  at  the  opening  of  the 
C6  we  find  them  again.  In  the  West  the  earliest 
monastic  communities  had  been  founded  by  S. 
Martin  of  Tours,  first  at  Milan  in  371  and  after- 

1  Lives  of  Women  Saints.  Translated  by  an  early  author 
(unknown)  probably  16 10-16 15.  Edited  by  C.  Horstmann 
(E.E.T.S.),  1886. 


wards  in  Gaul,  which  from  then  became  the  chief 
monastic  centre. 

It  is  here,  then,  that  another  brother  and  sister 
figure  as  the  founders  of  a  double  monastery.  S^ 
Caesarius,  Bishop  of  Arles,^  persuaded  his  sister 
Caesaria  to  leave  Marseilles,  where  she  was  in  a 
convent,  and  join  him  at  Aries  to  preside  over  the 
women  who  had  gathered  there  to  live  under  his 
guidance  ;  and  the  rule  which  he  afterwards  wrote 
for  these  nuns  is  the  first  Western  rule  for  nuns, 
and  was  afterwards  followed  in  many  double 
monasteries.  ^  He  arranged  it,  as  he  himself  says, 
according  to  the  teachings  of  the  fathers  of  the 
Church,  He  stipulates  that  all  joining  the  com- 
munity shall,  on  their  entry,  renounce  all  claims 
to  outside  property.  Only  those  women  are  to 
enter  who  accept  the  rule  of  their  own  accord  and 
are  prepared  to  live  in  perfect  equality  and  without 
servants.  Much  attention  is  paid  in  the  rule  to  the 
instruction  of  the  nuns  ;  they  were  to  devote  con- 
siderable time  to  music,  as  being  an  art  through 
which  God  could  fittingly  be  praised ;  to  be  taught 
reading  and  writing;  to  practice  cooking,  and 
weaving  both  of  Church  vestments  and  their  own 

They  were  to  attend  to  the  sick  and  infirm,  and 

1  Migne,  Pat.  Lat.,  Tom.  67,     Col.   looi. 

^  Bateson,  Mary,  "  Origin  and  Early  History  of  Double 
Monasteries."  Transactions  of  the  Royal  Historical  Society 
Vol.  XIII.,  p.  141. 


above  all  they  were  not  to  quarrel.  They  were  not 
entirely  cut  off  from  the  outside  world,  since  they 
were  permitted  to  entertain  women  from  other 
convents  ;  but,  says  the  Rule  **  Dinners  and  enter- 
tainments shall  not  be  provided  for  churchmen, 
laymen  and  friends.'*  We  have  only  indirect 
evidence  that  Aries  was  a  double  monastery.  The 
confusion,  for  example  in  Caesarius's  will  between 
his  two  foundations  of  S.  John's  and  S.  Mary's, 
resolves  itself,  if  we  suppose  that  the  monks  were  at 
the  one,  and  the  nuns  at  the  other,  and  that  they 
associated  in  the  great  church  in  the  monastery, 
described  by  the  authors  of  the  Life  of  S.  Caesarius, 
as  being  dedicated  to  S.  Mary,  S.  John  and  S. 
Martin.^  Such  an  arrangement  was  common  in 
later  double  monasteries. 

Another  famous  C6  monastery  in  Gaul  now 
supposed  to  have  been  double  was  that  of  S. 
Rhadagund  at  Poitiers  about  566.^  S.  Rhadagund 
was  married  to  King  Clothair  against  her  will,  and 
their  life  together  was  a  series  of  quarrels.  She 
was  so  devoted  to  charitable  work,  we  are  told,  that 
she  often  annoyed  the  King  by  keeping  him  waiting 
at  meals,  left  him  whenever  possibl^  and  behaved 
in  such  a  way  that  the  king  declared  that  he  was 
marred  to  a  nun  rather  than  a  queen.  Finally  the 
murder  of  her  young  brother,  at  the  instigation  of 
the  king,  determined  her  to  leave  the  court,  and 

^  Bateson,  Mary,  op.  cit.,   p.  143. 

*  Gregorius  Turon,  Hist.  Franc,  TJb.  3.,  cap.  7. 


flying  to  the  protection  of  Bishop  Medardus,  she 
demanded  to  be  consecrated  a  nun.^ 

After  some  natural  hesitation  on  the  part  of  the 
Bishop,  she  was  made  a  Deaconness — a  term 
applying  to  anyone  who,  without  belonging  to  any 
special  order,  was  under  the  protection  of  the 
Church.^  She  devoted  herself  to  the  relief  of  every 
kind  of  distress,  bodily  and  spiritual ;  and  at  length 
the  desire  came  to  her  to  provide  permanently  for 
the  men  and  women  who  came  to  her  for  help.  So, 
on  an  estate  whiah  she  owned  at  Poitiers,  she 
founded  a  nunnery  dedicated  to  the  Holy  Name, 
and,  probably  at  the  same  time,  the  house  for  men, 
separated  from  the  convent  by  the  town  wall  and 
dedicated  to  the  Blessed  Virgin  Mary.  It  was  in 
S.  Mary's  that  Rhadagund  was  buried  and  after 
her  death,  her  name  was  added  to  the  dedication. 
Beside  this  evidence  of  association  between  the  two 
houses,  the  only  other  is  the  correspondence  of 
Rhadagund  and  the  Abbess  Agnes  with  the  poet 
Fortunatus,  who  was  probably  a  monk  of  S.  Mary's, 
He  certainly  seems  to  have  been  the  director  and 
and  counsellor  of  the  nuns,  and  to  have  been  often 
engaged  in  business  for  them  ;  but  he  did  not  live 
in  the  same  house  with  them  for  in  one  of  his  letters 
he  laments  the  fact.  His  letters  and  verses 
addressed  to  the  two  women  throw  a  strong  light 

^  Nisard,  Viede  Fortunat,  chap.  52.     Paris,  1887. 
'  Eckenstein,    Lina,    Woman  under  Monasticism.     Page  54. 
Cambridge,  1896. 


on  the  friendship,  and  real  affection  which  existed 
amQng  the  three  friends.  He  says  that  he  will  work 
day  and  night  for  Rhadagund,  draw  the  water,  tend 
the  vines  and  the  garden,  cook,  wash  dishes,  any- 
thing, rather  than  that  she  should  do  the  heavy  and 
menial  work  of  the  house.  He  begs  the  abbess 
Agnes  to  talk  often  of  him  with  the  sisters  that  he 
may  feel  more  really  that  she  is  his  mother.  He 
sends  gifts  of  flowers  for  their  sanctuary,  and 
baskets  which  he  has  plaited  ;  and  with  a  basket 
of  violets  he  sends  the  following  charming  verses.^ 
(I  give  a  translation  which  must  necessarily  be 

"  If  the  season  had  yielded  me  white  lilies, 
according  to  its  wont,  or  red  roses  with  sweet 
smelling  savour,  I  had  plucked  them  from  the 
country  side,  or  from  the  turf  of  my  little  garden, 
and  had  sent  them,  small  gifts  for  great  ladies  ! 
But  since  I  lack  the  first,  I  e'en  pay  the  second,  for 

^  Tempora  si  solito  mihi  Candida  lilia  ferrent 
Aut  speciosa  foret  suave  rubore  rosa, 
Haec  ego  rure  legens  aut  caespite  pauperis  horti 
Misissem  magnis  munera  parva  libens ; 
Sed  quia  prima  mihi  desunt,  vel  solvo  secunda, 
Profert  qui  violas,  fert  et  amore  rosas. 
Inter  odoriferas  tamen  has  quas  misimus  herbas 
Purpureae  violae  nobile  germen  habent, 
Respirant  pariter  regali  murice  tinctae 
Et  saturat  foliis  hinc  odor,  inde  decor. 
Hae  quod  utrumque  gerunt  pariter  habeatis  utraque 
Et  sit  mercis  odor  flore  perenne  decus. 
(Nisard.  Poesies  de  Fortunat.     Lib.  8.,  vi.     Paris.  1887.) 


he  presents  roses  in  the  eyes  of  love,  who  offers 
only  violets.  Yet,  these  violets  I  send  are,  among 
perfumed  herbs,  of  noble  stock,  and  with  equal 
grace  breathe  in  their  royal  purple,  while  fragrance 
with  beauty  vies  to  steep  their  petals.  May  you, 
likewise,  both  have  each  charm  that  these  possess, 
and  may  the  perfume  of  your  future  reward  be  a 
glory  that  blooms  everlastingly." 

The  nuns  of  Ste.  Croix,  too,  seem  not  to  have 
been  lacking  in  generosity.  Fortunatus  frequently 
thanks  them  for  gifts  of  eggs,  fruit,  milk,  etc. ;  and 
on  one  occasion  he  receives  more  dishes  than  one 
servant  could  carry.  He  must  have  stood  in  some 
official  relation  to  Rhadagund,  for  such  freedom  of 
intercourse  to  be  possible  ;  and  if  his  verses  some- 
times suggest  the  courtier  rather  than  the  monk,  it 
must  be  remembered  that  they  are  the  work  of  a 
poet  who  had  first  been  a  friend  of  princes  and  was 
among  the  most  fashionable  men  of  letters  of  his 
day  in  Ravenna ;  and  that  they  are  addressed  to  a 
woman  who  was,  after  all,  a  queen. 

In  587  Rhadagund  died  and  Bishop  Gregory  of 
Tours  tells  how  greatly  she  was  mourned  by  the 
whole  community,  and  how  some  200  women 
crowded  round  her  bier,  bewailing  their  loss.  One 
of  them,  the  nun  Baudonivia,  several  years  after- 
wards, cannot,  she  says,  even  speak  of  the  death  of 
Rhadagund  without  being  choked  with  sobs.^ 

It  will  be  seen  from  these  examples,  that  in  all 

^  Gregorius  Turon,  De  Gloria  Confessorum,  cap.  106. 


probability,  the  origin  of  the  double  monastery 
need  not  be  sought,  as  has  been  supposed,  in 
Ireland,  since  it  seems  to  have  been  known  in 
Gaul  before  S.  Columbanus  and  his  Irish  disciples 
landed  there  and  preached  a  great  religious 
revival,  at  the  end  of  the  C6.  Indeed,  though 
there  are  scattered  notices  in  the  lives  of  the  Irish 
saints,  which  seem  to  suggest  that  there  were 
double  monasteries  in  Ireland  in  very  early  times, 
there  is  no  definite  evidence  until  the  description 
in  Cogitosus's  "  Life  of  S.  Bridget,"  of  one  at 
Kildare,  probably  in  the  C8.  The  monasteries 
actually  founded  by  S.  Columbanus  himself,  were 
all  for  men. 

On  the  other  hand,  the  double  monastery  seems 
always  to  have  flourished  wherever  the  fervour  of 
the  Irish  missionaries  penetrated.  Perhaps,  as 
Montalembert  ^  suggests,  the  ideal  atmosphere  of 
divine  simplicity  and  single-mindedness  which 
characterised  them,  was  particularly  favorable  to 
the  growth  of  such  an  institution. 

S.  Columbanus  dedicated  Burgundofara,  or 
Fara,  as  a  child,  to  the  religious  life  ;  and  she 
afterwards  founded  the  monastery  of  Brie  to  the 
south-east  of  Paris,  which  we  learn  from  Jonas 
who  was  a  monk  there,  and  from  Bede,  was  a 
double  monastery. 

It  is  clear  that  this  house  was  one  of  those  ruled 
by  an  abbess,  for  Jonas  says  that  no  distinction 

Moines  d'Occident.     Tom.  V.,  cap.  4.     Paris,  1867. 


was  recognised  between  the  sexes,  and  that  the 
abbess  treated  both  alike.  The  discipline  here, 
however,  seems  to  have  been  very  severe,  for  he 
adds  that  some  of  the  new  nuns  tried  to  escape  by 
ladders  from  the  dormitory.  Brie  is  interesting  to 
us  as  forming  one  of  the  links  between  Continental 
and  English  monasticism  at  this  time.  Bede  says 
of  the  daughter  of  Erconberht,  King  of  Kent, 
"  She  was  a  most  virtuous  maiden,  always  serving 
God  in  a  monastery  in  France,  built  by  a  most 
noble  abbess,  Fara  by  name,  at  a  place  called 
Brie  ;  for  at  that  time,  but  few  monasteries  being 
built  in  the  country  of  the  Angles,  many  were 
wont,  for  the  sake  of  monastic  conversation,  to 
repair  to  the  monasteries  of  the  Franks  or  Gauls ; 
and  they  also  sent  their  daughters  there  to  be 
educated  and  given  to  their  Heavenly  Bridegroom, 
especially  in  the  monasteries  of  Brie,  Chelles,  and 

He  adds  that  two  daughters  of  King  Anna  of 
East  Anglia,  "  though  strangers,  were  for  their 
virtue  made  abbesses  of  the  monastery  of  Brie." 

Little  is  known  of  Andelys,  except  that  it  was 
founded  by  Queen  Clotilda.  At  Chelles,  founded 
b}.  Queen  Bathilda  in  662,  ten  miles  from  Paris, 
on  the  river  Marne,  many  famous  persons,  both 
men  and  women,  received  their  education.  Among 
them   was   a    Northumbrian  princess,   Hereswith, 

^  Bede,  Hist.  Eccles.,  Lib.  III.,  cap.  8.  Ed.  C.  Plummer. 
Oxford,  1896. 


whose  sister  was  Hild,  the  most  famous  of  English 

The  prevalence  and  influence  of  the  double 
monastery  in  England  may  perhaps  be  better 
understood  by  a  reference  to  the  position  of 
women  generally  in  Anglo-Saxon  society.  Nothing 
astonished  the  Romans  more  than  the  austere 
chastity  of  the  Germanic  women,  and  the  religious 
respect  paid  by  men  to  them,  and  nowhere  has 
their  influence  been  more  fully  recognised  or  more 
enduring  than  among  the  Anglo-Saxons.  This 
fact  largely  accounts  for  the  extreme  importance 
attached  by  them  to  marriage  alliances,  par- 
ticularly those  between  members  of  royal  houses.^ 
These  unions  gave  to  the  princess  the  office  of 
mediatrix ;  in  Beowulf  she  is  called  Freothowebbe, 
*' the  peace- weaver." '-^  From  this  rose  the  high 
position  held  by  queens.  Their  signatures  appear 
in  acts  of  foundation,  decrees  of  councils,  charters, 
etc.  Sometimes  they  reigned  with  full  royal 
authority,  as  did  Seaxburg,  Queen  of  the  West 
Saxons,  after  the  death  of  her  husband.^  From 
the  beginning  of  Christianity  in  England,  the 
women,  and  particularly  these  royal  women,  were  as 
active  and  persevering  in  furthering  the  Faith,  as 
their  men.     '*  Christianity,"   says  Montalembert,* 

^  This  applies  to  the  Germanic  peoples  generally. 

*  Line  1942.     Ed.  F.  Holthausen.     Heidelberg,  1906. 

*  Anglo-Saxon  Chronicle,  under  672.     Ed.  C.  Plummer.     1892 
^  Moines  d'Occident.     Tom.  5,  page  241.     Paris,  i860. 


**  came  to  a  people  which  had  preserved  the 
instinct  and  sense  of  the  necessity  for  venerating 
things  above,"  and  **  they  at  least  honoured  the 
virtue  which  they  did  not  themselves  always 

Consequently,  when  the  young  Anglo-Saxon 
women,  having  been  initiated  into  the  life  of  the 
cloister  abroad,  returned  to  England  to  found 
monasteries  in  their  own  land,  they  were  received 
by  their  countrymen  with  reverence  and  respect. 
This  respect  soon  expressed  itself  in  the  national 
law,  which  placed  under  the  safeguard  of  severe 
penalties  the  honour  and  freedom  of  those  whom 
it  called  the  "  Brides  of  God." 

Princesses,  royal  widows,  sometimes  reignmg 
queens,  began  to  found  monasteries,  where  they 
lived  on  terms  of  equality  with  the  daughters  of 
ceorls  and  bondmen  ;  and  perhaps  it  is  fair  to  say 
that  it  was  not  the  lowest  in  rank  who  made  the 
greatest  sacrifice. 

But  the  influence  of  these  women  did  not  cease 
with  their  retirement  to  the  cloister.  When  one 
of  them,  by  the  choice  of  her  companions,  or  the 
nomination  of  the  bishops,  became  invested  with 
the  right  of  governing  the  community,  she  was  also 
given  the  liberties  and  privileges  of  the  highest 
rank.  Abbesses  often  had  the  retinue  and  state  of 
princesses.  They  were  present  at  most  great 
religious    and    national    gatherings,     and     often 



affixed  their  signatures  to  the  charters  granted  on 
these  occasions.^ 

I  have  already  referred  to  one  of  the  greatest  of 
these   abbesses,    Hild   of  Whitby.     She   was  the 
grand  niece  of  Edwin,  the  first  Christian   King  of 
Northumbria  and  had  been  baptised  with  her  uncle 
at  York  in  627  by  the  Roman  Missionary  Paulinus.^ 
Bede   says  that,    before   consecrating  her   life  to, 
religion,    **  she    had   lived  thirty-three  years  very/ 
nobly  among  her  family."     When  she  realised  het 
vocation,    she   went   into    East  Anglia  where  her 
brother-in-law  was  king,  intending  to  cross  over  to 
the  continent  and  take  the  veil  at   Chelles.     vShe 
spent  a  year  here  in  preparation,  but  before  she  could 
accomplish  her  purpose,  Bishop  Aidan  invited  her 
to    the    north,    to    take    charge    of    the    double 
monastery  of  Hartlepool,  which  had  been  founded 
by  Heiu,  the  first  nun  in  England.     **  When,"  says 
Bede,  ''she  had   for    some    years    governed  ihis 
monastery,    wholly   intent   upon  establishing  the 
regular  life,  it  happened  that  she  also  undertook 
the  construction  or  arrangement  of  a  monastery  in 
the  place  which  is  called  Streonesheal   (Whitby), 
and    diligently    accomplished   the    work  enjoined 
upon  her.     For  in  this  monastery,  as  in  the  first, 
she   established  the  discipline  of  the  regular  life, 

1  Haddan  and  Stubbs,  Councils,  iii.,  238.  Abbesses  Mildrith, 

Aetheldrith,    Aette,    Wilnoth,    Hereswyth,  sign    the    privilege 

granted  to   the   churches   and   monasteries  of  Kent,   by   King 
Wihtred,  696/716. 

'Bede.  Hist.  Eccles.,  Lib.  IV.,  cap.  23.     (Cp.  II.   14.)     Ed. 
C.  Plummer.     Oxford,  1896. 


and  indeed,  she  taught  there  also,  justice,  piety, 
chastity,  and  other  virtues,  but  especially  the 
guarding  of  peace  and  charity ;  so  that,  after  the 
example  of  the  primitive  church,  no  one  there  was 
rich  and  none  poor,  all  things  were  common  to  all 
and  no  one  had  property.  So  great  was  her 
prudence,  moreover,  that  not  only  ordinary  persons 
in  their  necessity,  but  even  kings  and  princes 
sought  and  received  counsel  of  her.  She  made 
those  who  were  under  her  direction  give  so  much 
time  to  the  reading  of  the  Divine  Scriptures,  and 
exercise  themselves  so  much  in  the  works  of 
righteousness,  that  many  could  readily  be  met  with 
there,  who  were  fit  to  take  up  ecclesiastical  office, 
that  is,  the  service  of  the  altar."  Bede  goes  on  to 
mention  six  men  from  Hild's  monastery,  who- 
afterwards  became  bishops.  The  most  famous 
was  perhaps  S.  John  of  Beverley,  who  was  first 
bishop  of  Hexham,  and  afterwards  of  York,  and 
who  was  noted  for  his  piety  and  learning.  Aetta 
held  the  see  of  Dorchester  for  a  time.  Bosa, 
another  scholarly  disciple  of  Hild,  became  Arch- 
bishop of  York,  and  Tatfrith  was  elected  bishop 
of  the  Hwicce,  though  he  died  before  his 

None  of  these,  however,  have  a  greater  claim 
to  be  remembered  than  the  cow-herd  Caedmon, 
the  first  English  poet,  and  the  story  as  given 
by  Bede  is  perhaps  one  of  the  most  charming 
in  his  Ecclesiastical   History.^       Apart  from    the 

*  Lib.  IV.,  cap.  24.     Ed.  C.  Plummer.     Oxford,   1896. 


literary  interest  attaching  to  the  story,  his  life 
shows  some  of  the  details  in  outward  organisation 
of  these  great  double  monasteries.  Before  his 
entry  into  the  monastery,  says  Bede,  he  was 
advanced  in  years,  and  yet  had  so  little  skill  in 
music  that  he  was  unable  to  take  his  turn  at  feasts 
in  singing  and  playing  on  the  harp,  an  accomplish- 
ment common  to  high  and  low  among  the  Anglo- 
Saxons  and  kindred  nations. 

The  story  is  familiar  :  on  one  occasion  when  the 
feast  was  over,  he  left  the  hall  as  soon  as  he  saw 
the  harp  being  passed,  according  to  custom,  from 
hand  to  hand.  He  went  out  to  the  cattle-sheds, 
tended  the  beasts  and  lay  down  to  sleep.  In  a 
dream  he  heard  a  voice,  **  Caedmon,  sing  me  some- 
thing." He  answered,  "  I  know  not  how  to  sing ;  and 
for  this  cause  I  came  out  from  the  feast  and  came 
hither  because  I  knew  not  how."  Again  he  who  spoke 
with  him  said,  "  Nevertheless,  thou  canst  sing  me 
something."  Caedmon  said  *'  What  shall  I  sing  ?  " 
He  answered  "  Sing  me  the  Creation."  Then  Bede 
relates  how  the  cow-herd  sang  songs  before 
unknown  to  him,  in  praise  of  **  the  Creator,  the 
Glorious  Father  of  men,  who  first  created  for  the 
sons  of  earth,  the  heaven  for  a  roof,  and  then  the 
middle  world  as  a  floor  for  men,  the  Guardian  of 
the  Heavenly  Kingdom."  When  the  abbess  Hild 
heard  of  the  miracle,  she  instructed  him  m  the 
presence  of  many  learned  men  to  turn  into  verse 
portion  of  the  Scriptures.      He  took  away  his  task 


and  brought  it  to  them  again  "  composed  in  the 
choicest  verse.'*  Thereupon  the  abbess,  says  Bede 
'*  embracing  and  loving  the  gift  of  God  in  the  man, 
entreated  him  to  leave  the  secular,  and  take  upon 
him  the  monastic  life,  and  ordered  him  to  be 
instructed  in  sacred  history."  So  he  was  received 
into  Whitby  monastery  with  all  his  family  **  and," 
continues  the  story,  ''  all  that  he  could  learn  he 
kept  in  memory,  and  like  a  clean  beast  chewing  the 
cud,  he  turned  it  all  into  the  sweetest  verse,  so 
pleasant  to  hear,  that  even  his  teachers  wrote  and 
learned  at  his  lips." 

The  story  throws  a  good  deal  of  light  on  the  way 
in  which  a  large  double  monastery  was  organised. 
One  gathers  from  it  that  not  only  isolated  monks 
and  nuns  were  received  into  the  community  but 
sometimes  whole  families.  Caedmon  entered 
**  cum  omnibus  suis,"  which  is  generally  taken  to 
mean  that  his  whole  family  were  received  with  him. 
We  see  from  it,  too,  how  earnest  was  the  desire  of 
the  superiors  of  the  monasteries  to  instruct  the 
ignorant ;  how  rich  and  poor  alike  in  the  C7  might 
aspire  to  the  monastic  life,  the  only  passport  being 
the  honest  desire  to  serve  God  in  the  best  possible 

Again  in  the  latter  part  of  the  story,  dealing  with 
Caedmon's  sickness  and  death,  there  is  evidence 
of  how  the  aged,  the  sick  and  the  dying  were 
tended  with  special  care. 

Whitby  was  not  only  an  important  religious  but 


also  political  centre  and  the  abbesses  took  by  no 
means  a  small  part  in  controversy.  At  the  Synod 
of  Whitby  ^  held  here  in  664,  when  the  respective 
claims  of  Irish  and  Roman  ecclesiastical  discipline 
were  discussed,  Hild  took  the  side  of  the  Irish 
Church  ;  while  her  successor,  Aelflsed  interested 
herself  in  the  doings  of  her  brother  King  Egfrith. 
Hild  reigned  thirty  years  at  Whitby  and  died  after 
many  years  of  suffering,  during  which  she  never 
failed  to  teach  her  flock,  both  in  public  and  in 
private.  All  that  we  know  of  her  character,  indi- 
cates a  strong  and  vivid  personality,  a  mind  keenly 
alive  to  the  necessities  of  the  age,  and  a  will 
vigorous  enough  to  be  successful  in  providing  for 
them  where  opportunity  occurred.  She  had  a 
worthy  successor  in  Aelflsed,  a  friend  of  the  holy  S. 
Cuthbert.  Bede  says  of  her  that  "  she  added  to 
the  lustre  of  her  princely  birth  the  brighter  glory 
of  exalted  virtue,"  and  that  she  was  *'  inspired 
with  much  love  toward  Cuthbert,  the  holy  man  of 
God. "2 

On  one  occasion  she  had  fallen  seriously  ill,  and 
expressed  a  wish  that  something  belonging  to  S. 
Cuthbert  could  be  sent  to  her.  '*  For  then,"  she 
said,  "  I  know  I  should  soon  be  well."  A  linen 
girdle  was  sent  from  the  Saint,  and  the  abbess  joy- 
fully put  it  on.     The  next  morning  she  could  stand 

^  Bede.  Hist.  Eccles.,  Lib.  IV.,  cap.   25, 

^  Bede.    Vita    S.    Cuthberhti,  cap.    23.       Ed.    C.    Plummer^ 
Oxford,  1896. 


on  her  feet  and  the  third  day  she  was  restored  to 
perfect  health.  Later,  a  nun  was  cured  of  a  head- 
ache by  the  same  girdle,  but  when  next  it  was 
wanted,  it  could  nowhere  be  found.  Bade  argues 
quaintly  that  its  disappearance  was  also  an  act  of 
Divine  Providence,  since  some  of  the  sick  who 
flocked  to  it  might  be  unworthy,  and,  not  being 
cured,  might  doubt  its  efficacy,  while  in  reality,  their 
own  unworthiness  was  to  blame.  **  Thus,"  he  con- 
cludes, '*  was  all  matter  for  detraction  removed  from 
the  malice  of  the  unrighteous." 

A  contemporary  of  Hild's  was  Aebbe,  a  princess 
of  the  rival  dynasty  of  Bernicia,  and  sister  of  the 
royal  saint.  King  Oswald,  and  of  Oswy,  the  reign- 
ing king.  Her  brother  intended  to  give  her  in 
marriage  to  the  king  of  the  Scots,  but  she  herself 
was  opposed  to  the  alliance.  Her  family  had 
embraced  the  Christian  religion  in  exile,  and  she 
determined  to  follow  the  monastic  life. 

Accordingly,  she  built  a  doubt  monastery,  appar- 
ently in  imitation  of  Whitby,  at  Coldingham  on 
the  promontory  still  called  S.  Abb's  Head.  She 
does  not  seem,  however,  to  have  maintained,  like 
Hild,  the  discipline  and  fervour  of  which  she 
herself  gave  an  example  ;  for  Bede  notes  here  a 
rare  example  of  those  disorders  of  which  there  were 
certainly  far  fewer  in  England  at  this  time  than 
anywhere  else.^     Aebbe  was  apparently  in  ignor- 

1  Bed.  Hist.  Eccles.,  Lib.  IV.,  cap.  25.  Ed.  C.  Plummer. 
Oxford,  1896. 


ance  of  the  relaxation  of  discipline  in  her  monastery 
until  she  was  warned  of  it  by  an  Irish  monk  of  her 
community,  named  Adamnan. 

As  he  was  walking  with  the  abbess  through  the 
great  and  beautiful  house  which  she  had  built,  he 
lamented  with  tears,  '*  All  that  you  see  here  so 
beautiful  and  so  grand  will  soon  be  laid  in  ashes !  " 
The  astonished  abbess  begged  an  explanation.  "  I 
have  seen  in  a  dream,"  said  the  monk,  "  an  unknown 
one  who  has  revealed  to  me  all  the  evil  done  in 
this  house  and  the  punishment  prepared  for  it." 

And  what,  one  naturally  asks,  are  these  crimes 
for  which  nothing  short  of  total  destruction  of  the 
splendid  house  is  a  severe  enough  visitation  from 
Heaven  ?  Adamnan  continues  "  The  unknown  one 
has  told  me  that  he  visited  each  cell  and  each  bed, 
and  found  the  monks,  either  wrapt  in  slothful  sleep, 
or  awake,  eating  irregular  meals  and  engaged  in 
senseless  gossip  ;  while  the  nuns  employ  their 
leisure  in  wearing  garments  of  excessive  fineness, 
either  to  attire  themselves,  as  if  they  were  the 
brides  of  men,  or  to  bestow  them  on  people  outside." 
One  must  admit  that  here  and  therein  the  writings 
of  the  period,  there  are  references  to  this  worldli- 
ness  in  some  monasteries  ;  but  whatever  may  have 
been  the  state  of  things  at  a  later  date,  there  does 
not  seem  to  be  evidence  of  graver  misdeeds  in  these 
early  years  of  monasticism  in  England.  Bede  uses 
perhaps  unnecessary  severity  in  speaking  of 
renegade  monks  and  nuns  so-called,  since  he  is 


admittedly  speaking  from  hearsay  and  not  about 
disorders  which  came  under  his  own  observation. 
Whatever  the  sins  of  Coldingham  may  have  been, 
the  community  at  a  later  date  atoned  for  them,  for 
in  the  Cg,  when  the  Danes  invaded  Northumbria, 
and  killed  the  men  of  this  monastery,  among  others, 
the  nuns  are  said  to  have  mutilated  their  faces  in 
order  to  escape  the  marauders.  The  Danes,  in 
fury  at  the  loss  of  their  prey,  burned  the  monastery 
to  the  ground,  and  all  that  remains  to  mark  the  site 
is  a  small  ruined  chapel. 

At  Ely  there  was  also  a  double  monastery 
founded  by  Aethelthryth,^  later  known  as  S. 
Awdrey.  She  was  the  daughter  of  Anna,  King  of 
the  East  Angles,  and  therefore  a  niece  of  the  great 
abbess  Hild.  She  was  married,  for  the  second 
time,  probably  for  political  reasons,  when  over 
thirty  years  old  to  king  Egfrith  of  Northumbria, 
then  a  boy  of  fifteen.  After  living  with  him  for 
twelve  years,  she  left  him  and  went  to  Coldingham, 
where  she  received  the  veil.  Whether  Egfrith 
agreed  to  this  or  not,  it  is  impossible  to  say. 
There  are  reasons  for  believing  that  he  was,  at  any 
rate,  unwilling  ;  for  Bede  says  that  she  had  long 
requested  the  king  to  permit  her  to  lay  aside 
worldly  cares  and  serve  God  in  a  monastery  and 
that  she  at  length,  with  great  difficulty,  prevailed. 

She  remained  at    Coldingham   for  a  year  and 

^  Bede.  Hist.  Eccles.,  Lib.  IV.,    cap.    19.     Ed.  C.  Plummer. 
Oxford,  1896. 


then  went  to  Ely,  the  island  in  the  fens  given  to  her 
by  her  first  husband ;  and  there  she  built  a 
monastery,  of  which  she  became  abbess. 

She  renounced  all  the  splendours  and  even 
ordinary  comforts  of  her  former  royal  life.  Bede 
says  that  from  the  time  that  she  entered  the 
monastery,  she  wore  no  linen,  but  only  woollen 
garments,  rarely  washed  in  a  hot  bath,  unless  just 
before  any  of  the  great  festivals,  such  as  Easter, 
Whitsuntide,  and  the  Epiphany  ;  and  then  she  did 
it  last  of  all,  after  having,  with  the  assistance  of 
those  about  her,  first  washed  the  other  nuns. 

After  presiding  over  the  monastery  six  or  seven 
years,  she  died  of  a  tumour  in  her  throat,  which 
she  used  to  say  was  sent  as  a  punishment  for  her 
excessive  love  of  wearing  necklaces  in  her  youth. 
Hence  the  **  tawdrey  lace  "  of  **  The  Winter's 
Tale  "  and  elsewhere,  which  was  a  necklace  bought 
at  S.  Awdrey's  Fair,  held  on  the  day  of  her 
festival,  October  17th.  She  was  succeeded  by  her 
sister,  Seaxburh,  the  widow  of  Erconberht,  king  of 
Kent,  who  had  founded  a  double  monastery  at 
Sheppey,  of  which  she  was  the  first  abbess.  There 
is  no  mention  of  monks  as  well  as  nuns  before  her 
reign.  Her  daughter  Ermengild  succeeded  her  as 
Abbess  of  Sheppey,  and  at  her  mother's  death,  of 
Ely.  Ermengild's  daughter,  Werburh  (the  famous 
S.  Werburh  of  Chester),  also  became  abbess  of 
Sheppey  and  Ely  in  succession. 

In  the  same  way,  Minster  in  Thanet  remained 


in   the    family   of  its   foundress,    Eormenburg   or 
Domneva,  as  she  is  sometimes  called,  the  wife  of 
the    Mercian    prince    Merewald.      Accordmg    to 
tradition   she  received    the  land  from   Egbert   of 
Kent,    as    wergild    for    the    murder    of    her   two 
brothers.      She   asked   for    as  much  land  as  her 
tame  deer  could  cover  in  one  course,  and  she  thus 
obtained  about  ten  thousand  acres,  on  which  she 
built  her  monastery.     Her  daughter,  Mildred,  who 
succeeded  her  as  abbess,  acquired  greater  fame. 
She   was    educated    at     Chelles,    and  was    there 
cruelly   ill-treated    by    the    abbess,    who   was    in- 
appropriately named  Wilcona,  or  Welcome.     She 
wished  to  marry  Mildred  to  one  of  her  relatives* 
and   when    the   girl    refused,   she  put  her   into    a 
furnace.    When  that  punishment  failed,  she  pulled 
her  hair  out.     Mildred  adorned  her  psalter  with 
the   ravished    hair   and    sent    it    to   her   m.other. 
Finally   she    escaped    and  returned    home.     Her 
name   is  among  the   five  abbesses  who    signed  a 
charter   granting   church   privileges  at  a   Kentish 
Witanagemot.^      Her     successor,     Eadburg,      or 
Bugga,     built    a    splendid    new    church     in    the 
monastery,     which     is     described      in     a     poem 
attributed  to  Aldhelm.^     The  high  altar  was  hung 
with  tapestries  of  cloth  of  gold,  and  ornamented 
with  silver  and  precious  stones.     The  chalice,  too, 
was  of  gold,  and  set  with  jewels  ;   there  w^ere  glass 

1  Haddan  and  Stubbs,  Councils,  lii.,  238. 

'  S.  Aldhelmi  opera.     Migne  Pat.  Lat.     Tom.  89,  col.  289. 


windows,  and  from  the  roof  there  hung  a  silver 
censer.  Mention  is  made  of  the  united  singing 
of  the  monks  and  nuns  in  the  church. 

Eadburg  and  her  mother,  a  certain  Abbess 
Eangyth,  were  both  friends  of  Boniface,  the  great 
Enghsh  missionary  bishop  of  Mainz,  the  *'  Apostle 
of  Germany.''  Eangyth  writes  to  him  of  her 
troubles  as  abbess  of  a  double  monastery,  of  the 
quarrels  among  the  monks,  the  poverty  of  the 
house,  and  the  excessive  dues  which  had  to  be  paid 
to  the  king  and  his  officials.  In  one  letter  Boniface 
thanks  Eadburg  for  books  and  clothes,  and  asks  if 
she  will  write  out  for  him  in  gold  letters  the 
Epistles  of  S.  Peter,  that  he  may  have  the  words 
of  the  Apostle  before  his  eyes  when  he  preaches. 

Repton  was  another  double  monastery  under  an 
abbess,  though  nothing  is  known  of  its  foundation. 
Some  information  about  it  is  gained  from  the  Life 
of  S.  Guthlac  by  Felix.  Guthlac  was  a  noble  of 
Mercia,  and  in  his  youth  a  great  warrior ;  but  at 
the  age  of  twenty-four,  he  went  to  Repton  and 
received  the  tonsure  under  the  abbess  Aelfthryth. 
Her  rule  was  apparently  very  strict,  for  we  find 
Guthlac  getting  into  trouble  for  breaking  a  rule  by 
not  drinking  wine. 

Several  chapters  in  Bede's  Ecclesiastical 
History  are  devoted  to  stories  of  the  double 
monastery  at  Barking,  which  was  one  of  the  most 
famous.  It  was  founded  by  Erconwald,  who  after- 
wards became  bishop  of  London.    He  built  one  for 


himself  at  Chertsey,  and  one  for  his  sister 
Aethelburg  at  Barking,  and,  as  Bede  says,  "  estab- 
Hshed  them  both  in  regular  discipline  of  the  best 
kind."  This  monastery  included  both  a  hospital 
and  a  school,  under  the  energetic  rule  of  its  first 

Hildelith  succeeded  Aethelburg,  and  it  was  for 
her  and  her  companions  that  the  scholar  Aldhelm, 
bishop  of  Sherborne,  wrote  his  work,  "  De 
Laudibus  Virginitatis."  ^  He  speaks  of  the 
nunnery  as  a  hive  where  the  nuns  work  like  little 
bees,  for  they  collect  everywhere  material  for 
study.  Their  industry  is  not  confined  to  the  study 
of  Holy  Scripture.  He  speaks  of  them  as  searching 
carefully  into  the  writers  of  history,  as  having  a 
knowledge  of  ancient  law  and  chronography,  and 
in  writing,  of  the  rules  cf  grammar  and  ortho- 
graphy, punctuation,  metre,  together  with  the  use 
of  allegory  and  tropology ;  all  of  which  goes  to 
prove  that  the  field  of  secular  knowledge  was  not 
particularly  limited  for  nuns  in  those  days. 
Aldhelm  enlarges  on  the  charms  of  their  peaceful 
life  in  the  nunnery,  and  the  opportunities  for 
thought  and  study  it  affords  them.  He  recom- 
mends the  works  of  Cassian  and  Gregory  for  their 
reading,  and  warns  them  against  pride,  a  special 
temptation  to  those  who  have  adopted  the  religious 

Again  there  comes  the  warning  against  worldli- 
ness  in  both  monk  and  nun.  Some  of  the  men,  he 
says,  contrary  to  the  rule  of  the  regular  life,  wear 

^  S.  Aldhelmi  opera.  Migne.  Pat.  Lat.  Tom.  89,  cols.  103-162 


gay  clothing.  *'  The  appearance  of  the  other  sex, 
too,  corresponds  :  a  vest  of  fine  linen  of  hyacinth 
blue  is  worn,  and  above  it  a  scarlet  tunic  with 
hood  and  sleeves  of  striped  silk  ;  on  the  feet  are 
little  shoes  of  red  leather ;  the  locks  on  the 
forehead  and  temples  are  waved  with  a  curling- 
iron  ;  the  dark  grey  head-veil  has  given  place  to 
white  and  coloured  head-dresses,  the  folds  of 
which  are  kept  in  place  by  fillets  and  reach  right 
down  to  the  feet ;  the  nails  are  pared  to  resemble 
the  talons  of  a  falcon/'  Aldhelm  condemns  all 
this,  but  hastens  to  add  that  of  course  he  is 
addressing  no  one  in  particular.  The  work  closes 
with  an  affectionate  greeting  to  those  whom  he 
calls  the  Flowers  of  the  Church,  Pearls  of  Christ, 
his  monastic  sisters  and  scholarly  pupils,  whose 
prayers  he  always  desires. 

In  Wessex  the  double  monastery  of  Wimborne 
was  the  most  important  of  its  time,  and  most 
famed  for  its  literary  activity.  According  to  the 
Anglo-Saxon  Chronicle^  it  was  founded  by  Cuth- 
burg,  sister  of  Ine,  king  of  Wessex.  Most  of  our 
knowledge  of  the  community  comes  from  the  Life 
of  S.  Lioba^  ('the  beloved'),  who  was  educated 
there  during  the  reign  of  the  Abbess  Tetta, 
another  sister  of  the  royal  founder.  The  author  of 
S.  Lioba's  Life  describes  the  arrangement  at 
Wimborne.  He  says  that  there  were  two  monas- 
teries  there,    one   for   clerks    and    the    other    for 

1  Under  718. 

»  By  Rudolf  of  Fulda,  a  monk.     He  wrote  about  836.     A.  SS. 
Boll.,  Sept.  28. 


women.  The  two  houses  were  surrounded  by 
high  walls  and  the  monastery  was  well  endowed. 
No  nun  could  obtain  permission  to  go  to  the 
monks'  house,  and  no  man  might  enter  the  nuns' 
convent,  except  the  priests  who  came  to  celebrate 
in  their  church.  One  gathers  from  this  that  there 
was  not  a  common  church  for  both  sides  of  the 
community,  as  was  often  the  case.  The  abbess 
gave  any  necessary  orders  to  the  monks  through  a 
window.  No  woman  was  admitted  to  the  com- 
munity unless  she  undertook  not  to  attempt  to 
leave  it  except  for  very  urgent  reasons  and  by 
permission  of  the  abbess. 

Some  idea  of  its  size  may  be  gathered  from  the 
fact  that  there  were  five  hundred  nuns  at 
Wimborne,  That  strength  and  tact  were  needed 
to  rule  them  is  shown  by  one  amusing  if  lamentable 

A  very  religious  virgin  was  placed  in  authority 
over  the  novices,  and  she  was  so  hated  by  them  on 
account  of  her  severity  that  even  after  her  death 
the  young  nuns  could  not  forget ;  and  rushing  out, 
they  trampled  upon  her  grave,  with  curses,  until 
the  mound  became  a  hole  half  a  foot  deep.  The 
abbess  Tetta  rebuked  them  for  their  unchristian 
behaviour,  and  ordered  a  three  days'  fast  and 
penance,  after  which  the  culprits  apparently 
recovered  their  senses. 

Lioba  herself  seems  to  have  had  an  attractive 
personality,  and  to  have  gained  the  affection  both 
of  the  abbess  and  the  other  nuns.  A  little  letter 
of  hers  is  extant,  wherein  she  writes  to  Boniface 
recalling  herself  to  his  mind  and  claiming  relation- 


ship  with  him  through  her  mother.  She  also 
encloses  some  Latin  verse  for  his  criticism.  She 
says,  ''  This  too,  I  ask,  that  you  will  correct  the 
mistakes  of  this  letter,  and  send  me  a  few  words  as 
a  proof  of  your  goodwill.  I  have  composed  the 
little  verses  written  below,  according  to  the  rules 
of  prosody,  not  from  pride,  but  from  a  desire  to 
cultivate  the  beginnings  of  a  slender  genius,  and 
because  [  wanted  your  help.  I  learnt  the  art  from 
Eadburga,  my  mistress,  who  devotes  herself 
unceasingly  to  searching  Divine  Law." 

When  Boniface  was  establishing  religious  houses 
in  Germany  he  sent  to  Abbess  Tetta,  asking  that 
Lioba  might  be  allowed  to  come  over  and  help 
him.  She  went,  and  Boniface  put  the  monastery 
of  Bischofsheim  on  the  Tauber,  a  tributary  of  the 
Main,  under  her  care.  Here  she  carried  on  the 
traditions  of  Wimborne,  for  she  taught  and 
encouraged  learning  in  every  way.  Her  rule  was 
sane  and  wise.  Her  biographer  says  of  her,  ^*  She 
was  careful  always  not  to  teach  others  what  she 
herself  did  not  practise.  Neither  conceit  nor 
overbearing  found  any  place  in  her  disposition  ; 
but  she  was  gentle  and  kind  to  everyone  without 
exception.  She  was  beautiful  as  an  angel  and  her 
conversation  was  charming.  Her  intellect  was 
renowned,  and  she  was  able  in  counsel.  She  was 
catholic  in  faith,  most  patient  in  hope,  and  of 
widespread  charity.  Though  her  face  was  always 
cheerful,  she  never  broke  into  hilarious  laughter. 
No  one  ever  heard  an  ill-natured  remark  fall  from 
her  lips,  and  the  sun  never  went  down  upon  her 
wrath.     Though  she  provided  food  and  drink  with 


the  greatest  liberality  for  others,  she  was  very 
moderate  herself;  and  the  cup  from  which  she 
used  to  drink  was  called  by  the  sisters,  on  account 
of  its  size,  '  darling's  little  mug.'  " 

She  knew  that  a  heedful  mind  is  necessary  for 
both  prayer  and  study,  and  so  she  insisted  upon 
moderation  in  holding  vigils.  She  allowed  herself, 
and  the  sisters  under  her,  a  short  rest  after  dinner, 
especially  in  the  summer  time  ;  and  would  never 
willingly  allow  people  to  stay  up  late  ;  for  she 
maintained  that  loss  of  sleep  meant  loss  of  in- 
telligence, especially  in  reading.  Her  methods 
were  undoubtedly  successful,  for  Rudolph  says 
that  among  the  other  convents  for  women  in 
Germany,  there  was  scarcely  one  which  had  not 
teachers  trained  under  Lioba,  so  eagerly  sought 
after  were  her  pupils. 

Here  this  account  of  some  early  double 
monasteries  must  end.  In  England  they  pro- 
bably existed  right  up  to  the  Danish  invasions 
of  870,  and  disappeared  in  the  general  devas- 
tation of  the  country  during  the  succeeding 
years.  The  organisation,  however,  appears  again 
in  this  country  in  the  C12,  and  even  as  late 
as  the  C15.  The  order  of  S.  Gilbert  of  Sem- 
pringham  in  the  C12  was  a  double  one,  and 
the  only  order  which  actually  had  birth  in 
England.  It  was,  however,  entirely  lacking  in  that 
intellectual  activity  which  was  a  special  feature  of 
the  earlier  double  monasteries,  among  both  men 
and  women,  and  which,  from  the  secular  point  of 
view,  gave  to  the  Anglo-Saxon  nunneries  a  place 
not  incomparable  with  the  women's  colleges  of  the 


present  day.  The  latest  double  monastery  in 
England  was  that  of  S.  Bridget  of  Sion,  near 
Isleworth,  on  the  Thames. 

Reference  has  been  made  only  to  the  more  im- 
portant early  double  monasteries  in  England  ;  but 
there  are  others  which  may  or  may  not  come 
under  this  category.  Of  these  some  are  Whitern 
in  Galloway,  Carlisle,  Caistor  in  Northampton- 
shire, Gloucester,  Strenshall  in  Staffordshire,  and 
Lyminge  in  Kent. 

It  is  uncertain  whether  Biscofsheim,  in  Ger- 
many, under  the  abbess  Lioba,  was  a  double 
monastery,  but  the  arrangement  is  known  to  have 
existed  in  Germany  in  the  C8  and  later.  There 
are  also  traces  of  them  in  Italy,  and  considerable 
evidence  for  the  same  sort  of  system  in  Spain,  but 
time  does  not  allow  of  dealing  with  them  here. 

Finally,  the  double  monastery  did  not  flourish 
or  find  much  favour  in  the  more  sophisticated 
ages  of  Christianity,  but  generally  followed  an 
outburst  of  religious  enthusiasm  in  the  earlier 
centuries  of  the  Faith.  "  It  was,"  says  Montalem- 
bert,  *'  a  peculiarity  belonging  to  the  youth  of  the 
church,  which,  like  youth  in  all  circumstances, 
w^ent  through  all  the  difficulties,  dangers,  and 
storms  of  that  age,  and  which  in  maturer  times 
gave  way  before  a  more  practical,  if  less  ideal, 
outlook  on  life."  * 

^  Moines  d'Occident.     Tom.  5,  page  320.     Paris,  i860 

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